I’m not going to resist writing about this device, but I will riPhone from Appleeserve my kudos of Apple’s iPhone for a later time. As many of us that have been around mobile devices know, and as was discussed by Karen Fasimpaur and Tony Vincent at the Mid-Atlantic Handheld Conference last summer, the convergence of devices typically diminishes some of the best features of a device. Only time will tell. These are my initial thoughts on the iPhone after watching the keynote presentation.

I am curious about the iPhone because of what I feel is a strong point for Apple, they control the software and the hardware for their products. I must admit that a mobile device running OS X is definitely worth a looksee. The new technology involved with this device is definitely intriquing with sensors that respond to basic uses such as the accelerometer (is this the same accelerometer in the Nike+iPod?), proximity detector and ambient light sensors. These are great innovations for mobile devices, but hardly a selling point for education. My cellphone has been difficult to get audio files (read podcasts) loaded. Hence the reason I still carry three devices, hey, call me Batman. I do like my iPod and have been playing a bit with a pretty cool tool shared by Will Richardson called MogoPop, which has, dare I say it, potential for learning via iPods. I didn’t come across anything about the iPhone being able to handle documents, spreadsheets and other files through the multi-touch screen. Of course, I assume it can still be used as a drive to carry all sorts of files. The 4GB to 8GB is to be expected for such a device, but hardly compares to the 30-80GB iPods some students in the schools in our area carry to class to transfer audio/video projects.

Chew on this:

  1. The fine print located at the bottom of the iPhone page: “This device has not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. This device is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained.
  2. Developers are not welcome. What is great about the Windows Mobile OS and Palm OS is that it allows for third party developers for applications, which is very important for educators using mobile devices.

Whatdya think?

3 Strikes for DELL?

I am most disappointed.  I haven’t had my new Dell AXIM x51v for 2 weeks yet and it’s out of commission.  Yesterday, in it’s case, it was accidentally knocked from the table (~24 inches high) and the screen cracked.  This is the third, count them, first, second, THIRD AXIM that has a cracked screen for me.  (I’ll share a photo soon) I understand the first, a AXIM x3i, it was my daughter’s playing that damaged the used device.  Whiff!  The second one, an AXIM x30, was and still is a mystery.  I had used it, placed it in my computer bag, and went to the office.  When I arrived, I pulled it out and found a crack in the lower left section of the screen.  Whiff!  This third Dell, a AXIM x51v, was functioning okay and I was just getting it to where I wanted it (apps and settings installed, etc.).  I had taken a note, put it in the cheesy slip cover that Dell provides and a minute later it fell the 2 feet to the floor.  I couldn’t believe it!  Worse yet, there is a district that is looking to purchase this very model anyday now, for student use!  I’m thinking this is going to be a big problem.  These things are handhelds, we all fumble from time to time, why are the AXIM’s so fragile?

On a related note, I still have my Palm Tungsten T2 that is now my old reliable.  I wasn’t wild about it at first, but it has served me well between AXIM’s.  Why have I missed this reliability?  Oh, and if you are thinking whether my T2 has taken it’s lickin’, the answer is yes.

Supporting K-12 Learning Using Handhelds

Karen Fasimpaur joined the MAHC early and filled in for a late presenter cancellation. Palm and PocketPC users converged to learn how using handheld computers can improve instruction and learning for K-12 students.

Karen suggested that teachers and technology leaders consider the outcomes of using handheld computers prior to committing to a purchase. Keep an eye on Linux-based handhelds in the future. Interestingly, she mentioned that there was a buzz about NECC this year about devices called “student appliances”. I haven’t heard this yet, but it was decided that the term was referring to portable devices like the Nova5000 or the Ultra Mobile PC.

So why handhelds for K-12 learning?

One teachers said to me:
We don’t really use or textbooks except to flip through the pictures, because the content is not appropriate for our kids.

One Answer – Curriculum.

I think Karen spoke an interesting quote when she said “the technology needs to be the curriculum”. She elaborated by saying that if it’s one more thing that teachers need to learn, it won’t happen. Also, a sustainable handheld implementation is not about giving students a chance to “play” with the handhelds on a Friday afternoon.

An Approach that Works

  1. Identify a grade level and curriculum area.
  2. Start with existing content objectives or standards
  3. Look at what objectives are most critical and of which handheld tools lend themselves
  4. Develop, adapt, or license materials based on current curriculum. Build your own if necessary.

The Core Tools

  • e-books – teachers love books, Plucker
  • Web clipping – secure, guided web browsing
  • Audio & Video – powerful tool for differentiating instruction
    • Kinoma Player (Palm)
    • Windows Media Player, TPCMP (Windows Mobile)
    • Camptasia Studio – http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.asp
  • Graphic Organizers – mapping the individual student’s mind, Inspiration
  • Writing – increasing writing opportunities
  • Worksheets – paperless classrooms
  • Quizzes & Tests – can’t escape these!

10 Critical Items for Success

  • Curriculum focus
  • Solid curriculum-based software and/or materials
  • Differentiation strategies (multi-leveled resources, vocabulary support, multimedia, “just in time” individualization)
  • A One-to-One model (there are various ways to implement a 1-to-1 model without breaking budgets)
  • Management tools – file management – how do you get files out to students and back again? SDExpress SD card that installs handheld applications from one SD card.
  • Students being allowed to take handhelds home – important to have parents in on the program, “students guard them with their lives… benefit is so much bigger… just take the leap and do it”

Sidenote: Warming up to the use of cellphones or convergent devices for educational purposes (I have been thinking about posting about this soon… stay tuned.)

  • On-going professional development and collaboration
  • Have an LCD projector
  • Administrative support – there is money there somewhere, administrators are using them
  • Teachers who want to do it

Mid-Atlantic Handheld Conference

MAHC @ Salisbury UniversityWell, in a few hours I will be going to Salisbury University to my first ever handheld conference. Gosh! It took me long enough. I will be listening and networking tomorrow and get a feel of where I am in the world of handhelds in education. I always enjoy conferences because they either give me affirmation that I am doing somethings right or they provide me with information and ideas to use and more knowledgable. I have a feeling I will have a mix of the former and the latter during this conference.

On day two of this conference, I will be presenting on the use of AudioBay software to download, listen and create podcasts with ease. I received word that the kind people at VoiceAtom have agreed to donate an AudioBay license as a door prize during my presentation! One sign that they are supportive of what we are trying to do with handhelds in education.

If you are attending the conference and you see me please approach me and say hello. I will have some “hard copy” business cards, but would prefer to beam contact information.

See you in the morning!

To iPod or Not to iPod?

I have regenerated this post as it is still a raging question in my mind as more and more schools are taking to iPods for various reasons. I regenerate this also to open the question to Mobilemind-ed readers as well as to my fellow educators who are considering iPods as THE solution. As this was a post from another blog… edTech Classroom it may seem dated.

Please comment with your thoughts. – Brian

To iPod or Not to iPod?

That is the question I had after attending a session on the uses of Apple's iPod in education at NYSCATE. Being someone who has experience with using handhelds I found this an interesting topic. Handhelds, as I have come to refer to them, are also known as personal digital assistants (PDA), Pocket PC's, or one of my pet peeves… Palm Pilots. They are, simply, computers that you can hold in your hand (hence, handheld computer). While I think iPods fit this description, I don't feel they are as useful as a handheld computer that runs on the Palm OS or Windows Mobile (a.k.a. – Pocket PC).

The iPod does have features and functions much like a PDA except the ability to input data through the iPod itself. I can use my PocketPC or Palm handheld to do all the things an iPod can do and more. In addition to keeping personal information (i.e.- calendar, contacts, to do, etc.) a handheld can record audio for podcasts, show video, read .pdf documents, create documents, spreadsheets & presentations, and most handhelds can take photos and video with the right accessories. Compare the differences:

Apple iPods vs. Handheld Computers

  iPod Handheld
DigitalMusic Yes Yes
Photos Yes Yes
Video Yes Yes
.pdf Yes Yes
Read/Write Yes/No Yes/Yes
Memory <60GB> <1-2GB>
Phone No Yes
Internet No Yes
Screen Size 2.5" >2.5"

When you compare the functions available on the iPod and on a handheld computer it seems that the handheld makes more sense for classrooms. So why this phenomenon? What is special about the iPod? When the iPod came out 4 years ago there were mp3 players with less than 128 MB of memory. Now Apple offers an iPod comes with 60 GB of memory that plays video. I believe it lies in the marketing. Apple was genius to "rope in" the millenial generation with a cool digital music player with a ton of memory. It seems that the only advantage an iPod has over a "traditional" handheld computer is that it has so much more memory. I don't believe that this kind of memory for a handheld is too far behind. It is cool, it is sleek, the millenials love it and will keep purchasing the next generation iPod. Given the attempt to combine iTunes and a phone [the ROKR] the next generation iPod may look more like a handheld. Only Steve Jobs will tell.

Traditional Handhelds?

A good article was posted on Brighthand a few weeks ago (yep, I'm a little slow to get to all 2500+ Bloglines feeds) about the Case for PDAs by Antoine Wright. Antoine wrote about the case for older, traditional (non-cellular, non-WiFi, non-Bluetooth) handhelds. I have been thinking a bit on this very subject for schools. I don't believe this "changing of the guard" from the "traditional" handheld (have they been around long enough for this term?) to "connected" handhelds applies to all sectors, namely education. Despite this belief, I applaud this movement. If the corporate world wants to discard these traditional handhelds, I have a suggestion… create a donation program to schools. There may very well be a program like this already in place and if you know of one, please let me know. But it just makes too much sense not to recycle the used or barely used handhelds into students hands. What a great marketing strategy. A company creates a program that recycles it's "old" handheld technology into the hands of students, the students and teachers then use them to learn and solve problems and whatever type of device that is being donated get's free advertising via use of future potential customers. Everybody wins. Especially the kids. Antoine actually mentions his former school and the different thought process that occurs (or should):

"it is amazing how in each visit that I am reminded of something: the technology they have picked up and use is much more about getting a problem solved, rather than showing off the latest thing."

Now that's what I'm talking about.

More Bang for Your Buck

When there's talk of technology in schools, the amout of use of that technology is often mentioned. As this use is examined, many, many schools find that the hardware, with which they spend millions of dollars on, in the end, spends more time collecting dust than acting as a tool for students. Unnecessary to say, this is frustrating, no, aggrevating.

In my second, albeit delayed, post related to my experience with Dr. Soloway and Dr. Norris last month, I want to paint a picture of the potential of a "handheld-centric" classroom. Here goes…

My last post read of the ratio of student to computer so I need not address it here. However, I must address the attempts of 1:1 via laptop computers. While this sounds all well and good, I don't think that is the answer for all schools. In terms of learning, handheld computers are more task appropriate. They are instantly available, whether in a student's desk, backpack or their pocket. There is no waiting for the operating system to boot up and ask the student to log in to a specific domain so their every move can be tracked. Handhelds turn on and turn off immediately. When mobility is important, handhelds can't be beat. They fit in a pocket, backpack or in the palm of the hand extremely well. As mobile as it is, it is also invisible. What I mean by invisible is not that you can not see it, but after some regular use, it becomes ubiquitous. I love that word. Every where learning occurs, if necessary or desired, handhelds can be there. It is invisible, because you become accustomed to using it and therefore don't notice it. Until it's missing.

An obvious concern about technology is cost:

"There are 55 million K-12 kids in America. Fifty-five million times $1,000—the cost of a laptop—isn’t going to happen. But 55 million times $100—the cost of a handheld—that could happen tomorrow," (Dr. Elliot Soloway, eSchool News, 2003)

My last point is that, compared to desktops, handheld computer users use 90% of it's functionality. Show me a desktop machine that has 90% of it's functionality being used and I'll show you a stripped down machine with nothing worth a darn using or an Uber Geek that has nothing to do. To reach such a high percentage of usability and still be inexpensive just seems unlikely. But it isn't.

Bottom line: Handhelds are inexpensive, reliable, and highly functional. What tax payer wouldn't want a district to spend their tax money this way?

What are we waiting for?

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at Erie #1 BOCES where we looked at the Handheld-Centric Classroom. The presenters were none other than Dr. Elliot Soloway and Dr. Cathie Norris of GoKnow, Inc. I got so much out of this workshop, I couldn't possibly put it into one post. I decided to post what I learned in chunks related to what the good doctors spoke about.

I can't say enough about the down-to-earth discussions I had with Dr. Soloway and Dr. Norris. Dr. Soloway was real, understanding and very curious as to what the group thought were some reasons why handheld computers were not more prevalent in our schools. Despite Dr. Soloway's correct statement, "they are not handheld computers, they are computers!", I choose to continue to refer to them as handhelds or handheld computers because they are not prevalent in schools at this time. Unfortunately, many teachers see them as just personal organizers or only good for games. We simply must to a better job on getting the word out to administrators, teachers and students.
Dr. Soloway suggested that there has been "precious little" impact of technology on K-12 education. I have to agree. Every where you look districts are throwing wads of money into hardware for classrooms. Has this method really changed anything? Even with the major money being thrown around they can't throw enough to reach the holy grail of technology integration, 1 computer per student . The typical ratio of students to computers is 5:1 (9:1 in urban areas) and is far from 1:1. Dr. Soloway and Dr. Norris believe as do I that handheld computers are the solution. (Remember they are computers)

A great idea is how some teachers are getting sets of handhelds, at very low costs, by looking for older used units. What's so great about this idea is that for just getting started with handhelds you don't need a high end unit. Many of the older (+/- 2-3 years) are capable of running most applications that are used in a classroom. Many of these applications can be found at Tony Vincent's web site learninginhand.com.

I want to publicly thank Michelle Okal and Jeff Dolce of Erie1 BOCES for inviting me to attend this workshop. Check back for more in the next few days as I run through the rest of what I learned from this great experience.

Primary Handhelds

While attending a Technology Summit for district TechnoCoaches I attended a session by Debbie Feasel, a 2nd Grade teacher at Plank South Elementary School in Webster, NY. Debbie spoke about moving from a one Palm classroom to a classroom set of Palm handhelds. She reviewed applications she has students use: GoKnow applications such as FreeWrite, Cells, iKWL, Sketchy, PiCoMap.

FreeWrite was used to write compositions. Debbie opted not to use Palm's Graffiti writing software, but the on-screen keyboard. She felt it was very important for her students to focus on her writing and not trying to learn another writing technique (they were learning cursive writing at the same time). Probably a good idea. Students would input responses to questions
about stories a partner read and beamed them to their partner in order
to provide feedback.

She found that students would follow directions on what applications to open and work with very quickly. This was encouraging as she need not go step by step each time they used the handhelds.

Cells is a spreadsheet application she uses with students to create lists, practice math facts, and for data collection. Students created lists of
different types of ants that they encountered while reading a book about ants. She would also beam a file with a list of adjectives in one column and
another column named "Examples" that was blank. Students would need to input examples they thought of related to the adjectives given.

She spoke about a struggling student who shined while using his Palm handheld. He was on task and produced the quality work expected of his
teacher. NCLB? Isn't this what's all about?

iKWL is a program that helps students organize their learning process. In addition to the iKnow, iWonder, and iLearned, students added words that they didn't recognize or know.

Sketchy was by far the most popular application for Debbie's 2nd graders.
Sketchy allows students to illustrate ideas and concepts that they are
trying to understand and learn. Students used Sketchy for learning about planets and weather. Their illustrations can be animated to display a series of pictures the students created. One student was so
creative and thoughtful he animated drawings of a recent haircut complete with opening and closing scissors and falling locks! Way cool.
I wonder if it would have won the Sketchy Contest! Other great examples of Sketchy was how Debbie had students create animations about how they
add and subtract using place values and demonstrating the water cycle.

One last application she uses with students is PiCoMap. Debbie used this with students after reading a story to get main ideas and to organize their thoughts after a field trip to
the George Eastman House.

Using the GoKnow applications, student work is connected through a web. For example, links to Sketchy animations, PiCoMaps and Cells files created by a student are accessible through the applications themselves and through the Handheld Learning Environment (HLE)

Debbie also used the To Do List to list objectives for students to achieve. (I have suggested to teacher's that this is a very good way to begin using handhelds in their classrooms.)

Other applications used in her class were Big Clock, Math Card, Match Who, FlashBoom, DataViewer, & US State Trivia.

Games were used as prizes. Cards indicating that students had earned a new game were left on desks the following morning. Game apps she
found useful were Froggy, Sorting Hat, Connect4, Checkers, and Chess.  Debbie finished up by saying this was a great way to foster
collaboration among students. She also mentioned that "students were
their own TechnoCoaches".

Simply PocketCasting

Thanks to Ian Marsden for his post Pocketcasting??? which informed me of the AudioBay application and Tony Vincent's post on the Learning in Hand forums whom Ian read it from. Gotta love the breadcrumb trails! Ian calls this Pocketcasting I believe because you are not using an iPod to do record (let's face it how many are with the new iPod?). We are using our PocketPC handhelds!

Ian wrote:

I have decided to call this Pocketcasting – as opposed to the usual Podcasting which has connotations that “casting” can only be achieved through the use of an iPod. I guess you could also name it Palmcasting if this can be achieved using a Palm OS device. What about Mobcasting when doing it from a mobile phone or SmartPhone (we already have moblogs)?

AudioBay is a one stop shop for basic creation of podcasts (i.e. – Sorry, no bells and whistles or mixing in music). I believe this tool is in its infancy and is a great way to get students to practice reading, conducting interviews, capturing class time, and whatever else you can dream up. Students can just record & send their file automagically to the VoiceAtom feed that the teacher creates.

Seems AudioBay also acts as an podcatcher allowing users to listen to podcasts to which they subscribe . I like FeederReader, but haven't mastered FeederReader's podcatching features yet (lack of time and effort at this point). I'd like to try this one, because as much as I like FeederReader, it's not as too kid-friendly.

I've been looking for something like this, well, I'd say for some time now, but it isn't really. Handhelds just seem like a natural fit for some types of podcasting (i.e. – students conducting interviews). I often think of those microcassettes that reporters used to record interviews in the field. What's a microcassette?

I had to try this so… drum roll please… My first official podcast… err… PocketCast!